How to Build a Portable Toolbox for Travel




Introduction: How to Build a Portable Toolbox for Travel

About: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check out my site @

This box is made out of maple with walnut splines and it has a walnut tray insert. Originally I designed it for art supplies, but as I started to work on it, I thought it would be just perfect as a travel box for hand tools. That's not to say however that it wouldn't be a great box to hold any supplies! Boxes are just so much fun to make, and this one would be perfect to hold any special things.

Step 1: Preparing the Wood

Here's the idea for this project. A simple box, with an inset top and bottom. Mitered corners and splines. To create a lid, the box is cut in two. Let's open it up. Inside the box we have a nice fitting tray that sits in the middle.

I started with running a maple board through the planer to get them nice and smooth. Then I resawed the wood and cut the pieces to size.

Looking the wood over and thinking about what size I want for the box.

Step 2: Assembling the Box

Next I'm routing the long and the short sides through the router with a 1/4 inch bit so I can insert the top and the bottom. So the bottom will sit flush, whereas the top will be inset a little bit.

Now for the lid I've got a couple of thin pieces of maple I'm cutting up here and I'm just going to laminate them together to create one piece. And adding a little clamping power from all sides so it sets up right.

OK, so time to assemble the box. So I'm putting down some glue in the routed grooves, and then I'm simply putting all the pieces together. So that looks good. Then holding the box in place with some clamps as the glue dries.

Step 3: Splines

Next to add some strength to the box, I'm going with splines. So the first step is adding the holes, and I'm using a spline jig for the router here. And I decided to add two splines on each sides, one will be inside the lid, and one will be in the main body.

Now, for the splines, I went with walnut. Love the contrast there. So cutting them up to size and then gluing them in, a little light tapping, sanding at times if they're a touch too thick and repeat.

To make my life a little easier, I opted for cutting off the excess wood on the band saw and then sanding the sides down flush.

Once the splines were cut and sanded, I cut the box in half on the table saw. I was really careful here, and cut one side at a time. And there you have it, a top and a bottom. Love this technique.

Step 4: Tray

Now, let's move on to the tray. These are the pieces I need, a bottom, and then the sides. Cutting a groove with the router so the bottom can sit flush. To connect this box I decided to use my box joint jig. So these are really small joints, simply the width of the blade with is 1/8 inch.

And then just fitting the pieces together.

So time to glue the tray together, and I'm simply adding some glue to the joints here and the grooves, and making a little box. Clamping everything in place, and wait to dry.

Step 5: Assembling

Then doing a little sanding to get everything nice and smooth. OK, so time to put everything together. In order for the tray to be able to sit inside the box, I've got some thin maple here, that I'm cutting to size. Seeing how this would work. Looks good. And then let's make sure the lid will fit, ok. So then just gluing in the sides, adding some clamps and letting it set up. Then sanding the tray and the box, and removing any dried glue.

Step 6: Dying & Flocking

Now, I love the look of the maple and the walnut, however I really wanted this box to feel a little vintage, with a bit more character. Which is why I decided to add some light cherry dye to the box.

Then to seal the wood, I'm adding a coat of dewaxed shellac everywhere. Now shellac is one of my favorite finishes in general, however the main reason why I added it here, is because the next step is flocking and when you add flocking, you need to seal the wood first so the glue doesn't get absorbed into the wood.

So taping off the sides here, and then I'm going outside, because this stuff is not water based and has a strong smell. So flocking is made up of two parts - the glue and the fibers, both of which should be the same color. This is the color wine.

So you brush on the glue, I used a disposable china bristle brush. Then I placed the box in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box and shot the fibers out with this flocking canister. And here it's a good idea to over do it, since you can capture any extras later on in the bag. Then I left that to dry for a couple of days, before shaking off the excess and removing the tape. So let's try it with the tray. OK, looks good.

Step 7: Hardware

Now let's move on to the hardware. So I've got a couple of nice hinges, so I'm measuring out where they should go, and how for deep they should sit, and then carefully chiseling the wood out of the box and the tray. And when you're dealing with small parts to chisel out like this it's just a good idea to take your time. And cleaning it up a little with a shoulder plane. Making sure it fits.

Then I'm using a self centering bit to drill the holes, and then screwing in the hinges. Once that was in place I measured out the space for the clasp. Just finding the center, drilling some holes, and screwing the clasp in.

Step 8: Finishing & Handle

Now to finish the box, this time I'm going with a wipe on gel polyurethane. This is pretty thick stuff and goes on really nicely. I'm just putting it on with a cloth here, and total I put on two coats of this. Also coating the tray, and this should add some nice protection.

For this box I have this gorgeous leather handle I drilled some holes in the leather, and got some beautiful brass screws. I also drilled some holes in the box.

But before putting it together, I decided to add some wax polish to the box and the leather here, and this is simply to add some protection, plus it darkens the leather just a touch.

Then I attached the leather to the box, with the screw and securing with a nut on the other side. And I must say, I really like the brass popping there against the maroon flocking. Then putting in the tray, closing the box, and it's done.

Step 9: Conclusion - Watch the Video

Make sure to watch the video for a much better perspective on the different steps!



    • Metalworking Contest

      Metalworking Contest
    • Fix It! Contest

      Fix It! Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest

    17 Discussions

    great box. is that a spoke shave ? thanks [ Vlad]

    Very nice, Linn. Your creations are a great inspiration for many of us. I too enjoy building boxes and recently completed a wannigan ( instructable is posted) and I am in the process of designing my version a chinese 3 tiered picnic box. In both cases I try to work with dimensional lumber locally available or recycled boards. I look forward to seeing more of your projects and builds online.


    2 years ago

    Real nice looking box!

    This is absolutely beautiful! I need a table saw ASAP. ;)

    I think, for making this box requires a professional skill. The power tools used are not available in domestic homes. DIY is my hobby which i do in my free time. Be it a fixing a toilet door or making selves on wall,, i made it myself. I avoid calling the technician for doing such things. After doing so many DIY, i still find this project hard.

    But the tool box is really cool. I love if i could have make it.

    1 reply

    You really don't need that much skill to make this but you DO need a table saw and some competence at using it to even consider a project like this. i had the benefit of taking wood shop class for two semesters in high school, yet the table saw was the one power tool in the shop students were never allowed to touch. At some point I don't recall in my 30s I bought one for a project and taught myself to use it. They are perfectly safe when treated with respect and knowing why they can be dangerous and what you should never do.
    Consider table saws to be vital to any woodworking project of any significance. Its the only way you will ever get a straight and or square piece of wood.
    (I've owned a ryobi bt3000 and dewalt contractor's jobsite saw FWIW, the latter I recommend)

    Watched the video on your Youtube channel. If you just need a small toolbox, a cheap plastic one does the trick but will never give the satisfaction of making one like this. Nice work. One thing I wondered; do you think the inner tray supports would have been better as short ones in the ends rather than long ones along the sides/ Might have used less volume at the cost of a little length for longer tools.

    I like the detail of the project, the flocking & the leather was a nice touch.

    I also like that all the jigs can be made by any wood worker.

    The table saw & router can be replaced by hand tools if need be.


    Very nice work - you're clearly a very skilled woodworker. Could you include a list of materials (and sources) and a cut list w/ dimensions for the wood?

    What are the dimensions for those wood pieces??


    2 years ago

    yeah! maybe i missed the text but tell us dimensions? I want it for buid one in larger scale ...about 2x

    very nice. totally added this to my favourites as inspiration for later.

    Beautiful work!!!

    super work. im rally glad i subscribe to you. constantly ace work

    super work. im rally glad i subscribe to you. constantly ace work